A little over two weeks ago, I wondered What if everything we have been told about Mitt Romney’s electability is wrong? I noted that Romney was slipping in polling vis-a-vis Obama, and that Romney had no history of surviving the types of onslaughts he would face in the general election.
Saturday night’s debate performance surely must give further pause.
What if the $10,000 bet had been offered not during the primaries when poked and prodded by a Rick Perry who visibly was enjoying himself, but on stage in October 2012 when poked and prodded by a smirking Obama?
Romney’s electability is the focus of a devastating article by Jonathan Last at The Weekly Standard, Overestimating Romney. The subheading says it all, “Aside from getting votes, he’s a great candidate.” Here’s an exerpt:
Romney’s electoral record becomes even more underwhelming when you examine the particulars. He first attracted national notice in 1994 when he mounted what was considered a strong challenge to incumbent senator Ted Kennedy. But when it came time to vote, Romney lost by 17 points in what turned out to be the best year for Republicans in more than half a century. In 2002, Romney won the gubernatorial race in Massachusetts. This victory—the triumph of a Republican in deep-blue Massachusetts—is now the cornerstone of his 2012 “electability” rationale….
Yet Romney’s victory was, as a matter of raw political power, less impressive than it seems. Romney was actually the fourth in a string of Republican governors who ran the state from 1990 until 2006. Of that group, Romney received the lowest percentage of the vote, failing to break the 50-percent mark in his 2002 victory. He took home a smaller share of the vote even than Paul Cellucci, the political nonentity who won the 1998 election. After three years in office, Romney’s approval rating was so low that he was forced to abandon hope of reelection. Romney’s term concluded with a Democrat winning the governor’s office for the first time in 20 years….
None of this is meant as a judgment on Romney’s worthiness as a candidate or accomplishments as a governor. But it is worth understanding that if elections are markets and candidates products, then Mitt Romney’s problems this time around aren’t some great mystery.
It’s just that no matter where he’s run, whether in primaries or statewide elections, he’s never sold particularly well.
Why would we think it would be different this time in the general election against Obama?